I woke up a little after 4 am with my stomach gurgling a lot with nerves. I usually don’t get nervous before races but this race was different since I hadn’t trained or run much at all. I kept worrying that I wouldn’t be able to finish or that I’d hurt myself again. I tried to be positive, visualizing myself crossing the finish line (in under 2 hours hopefully). I got out of bed at 5:30 am, had a Luna bar and some water, changed and stretched for a long time. Samantha’s parents picked us up in Conshohocken at 6:45 am and dropped us nearby the start line at 7:15 am. We got in a ridiculously long line for the porta-potties but at least we got to stand in the sun. It was chilly out! It took us until 8 am to get to the front of the line. Since we were right by our corral, 5, we just hopped on in as people started to head to the start line. Perfect timing! I was worried about my muscles tightening up with the cold weather. I tried to do a lot of dynamic stretching in the porta-potty line and hoped that would be good enough!
The Outfit and Gear:
I’m glad Mike encouraged me to throw my Brooks arm warmers in the suitcase because it was chilly! We made an emergency run the night before to Target (for gloves for me) and Dick’s (for a long-sleeve for Matt). Unfortunately Dick’s didn’t have handwarmers yet. I love running with them because I can just hold them in my hands and toss them when I’m warmed up. The $3 gloves from Target work too.
Brooks Arm Warmers
Zensah calf sleeves
Saucony Omni Pro sneakers
Oakley sunglasses (essential for this race – so sunny!)
Nathan hand-held water bottle
And as soon as we got in the corral we were running! I’m glad we weren’t standing around for long in the corral and I couldn’t get too stressed out. I said bye to Mike, Matt and Sam and wished them a good race. As soon as I started, I felt great. It immediately felt wonderful to be back in a race atmosphere with the crowds cheering and runners all around me. I loved the first few miles of running through the city. I immediately fell into my faster almost-race-pace without even thinking. It was almost as if the past few months of injuries and recovering hadn’t happened. I looked down at my watch, wondering if I should slow down. I figured that since I felt comfortable at this pace, I’d continue and slow down if I needed to. I kept telling myself not to push it and that my goal is just to finish, not to hit any time goal (even though I wanted to beat 2 hours…). It was great running through the city for the first few miles – around City Hall, by Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell. I was so happy to be having fun and feeling great. The crowd support was excellent!
Around mile 4, we turned slightly and I realized we had completed our downtown loop and were heading out to the river (the part I was nervous about – I like lots to look at and lots of distractions). We ran by the start line which was still packed with family and friends from earlier. My knees started feeling a little weird around then as well. I got a little nervous but told myself they feel great and it’s all in my head. I figured they were probably just sore, still getting warmed up.
I knew the hard part was to come. It was really pretty scenery running by the river although not very many spectators. It was such a perfect weather day for running! I amused myself by looking at other runners’ outfits and telling myself how great I was doing, how strong I am and other positive self-talk. I took my Accel vanilla gel around mile 6 and got a solid boost of energy. At mile 8, the turnaround, I thought for a second that going back to the start seems so long. Then I overhead a spectator say “only 4 miles left and they are all downhill!” That’s just what I needed to hear. I was in the home stretch. I could definitely finish and finish strong.
My stomach started feeling pretty wooshy and I considered stopping at a porta-potty but decided to push on to the finish and deal with an afternoon of stomach issues. I wouldn’t let my stomach problems affect my run. Just when I needed it around mile 10, one of my power songs came on, Waka Waka by Shakira and I listened to it three times in a row. Perfect timing. I was still feeling great so picked up the pace a bit. Unfortunately there was an unexpected hill that led up to the finish line but I spotted my friend Marie watching for us from the sidelines! What a great surprise! I really picked it up during the last few hundred yards to fly past runners at the finish. I love the energy boost you get at the end from the crowd lining the route to the finish. And I love the feeling of giving it all I can at the end.
I finished with a time of 1:54:20, hitting my below 2 hour goal. Although it’s 9 minutes slower than my recent PR, I’m still very happy with it because I didn’t really train, was coming off injuries and was going to be happy to be able to run and finish it!
Mile 1 – 8:36
Mile 2 – 8:22
Mile 3 – 8:29
Mile 4 – 8:35
Mile 5 – 8:43 (trying to slow down to not burn out early)
Mile 6 – 8:44
Mile 7 – 8:47
Mile 8 – 9:03 (getting kind of bored with the river route…)
Mile 9 – 9:12
Mile 10 – 8:44 (after I heard only 4 miles left and slightly downhill)
Mile 11 – 8:46
Mile 12 – 8:14 (realizing I was still feeling good and could speed up)
Mile 13 – 8:17
Overall, Rock ‘n Roll did a great job putting on the Half Marathon. I like that you usually know what to expect from them because their races have such a strong reputation and they want to maintain that. The porta-potty lines were long, not surprisingly, at the start line. But there was plenty of toilet paper, which is usually not the case. The start line seemed well-organized with not too much congestion early on. I liked that the roads were wide, especially at the beginning, with the only narrow part of the route around miles 2-3 by Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell. I also noticed that there seemed to be a lot more bands than the DC Rock ‘n Roll probably because we weren’t running through that many residential areas. I can’t comment on the water/Gatorade/gu stations because I didn’t stop; I brought my own water because I hate the congestion. They seemed to be pretty frequent though and reminded me to take a swig of my water.
I was concerned about the portion (last 8 miles…) of the course along the river and Boathouse Row. I was worried there would be few spectators and it would just be boring. I actually thought it was a gorgeous route and although not that exciting, flat and wide with a good mix of sun and shade. RnR put up motivational signage and there were quite a few bands along the river portion of the route. We turned around at a bridge with 4 miles sort of downhill to the end. My big complaint would be the banked turns around mile 12 of the course. It was difficult to run at an angle because one leg had to hit higher up than the other. I ran in a zig zag to help keep my legs even but it was awkward. The uphill to the finish line was tough but really made you feel like you earned that medal.
I found it difficult to find the people handing out medals at the end. You really had to search for them. The food and drink area after the race was poorly designed. I would have expected RnR to have the process down. Some snacks were on one side while different ones were on the other so people were wandering all over the place. There were also a couple people just walking around handing out bagels. I would suggest for RnR to do a card table line where people are funneled through (with BAGS!) to pick up their post-run snacks and drinks. The family reunion area was well-organized and the warm-up band was excellent! There were plenty of porta-potties available and stocked with TP.
When I felt my stomach get wooshy around mile 9, I knew I would be having some post-run stomach issues. I mean I should have expected it – I hadn’t run this fast since June or this long since the end of April. I drank a chocolate milk immediately and had some hard pretzels. I went to the bathroom and felt better. We had a long walk to Sam’s parents car and my stomach starting feel weird again. I stopped on the walk to use a bathroom and then laid on a bench on my stomach, hoping it’d settle down, for them to get the cars and pick me up. I didn’t want to stop laying on my stomach. So Sam’s mom put down the seats in her car and I actually fell asleep on the ride home. Back home, more stomach laying/stretching. I had no appetite but tried to get down some more pretzels and Gatorade. The good news is my legs felt fine. I decided to just try to sleep it off. I showered and took a long nap. I woke up starved and light-headed from being hungry. I had some warm applesauce which felt great on my stomach. We drove to a Pub nearby for a late lunch/early dinner. The sweet potato fries were awesome – not too fried. I stuck with water to drink. I actually had a few sips of Mike’s beer and it tasted delicious – just enough carbonation and so cold. I had a gigantic chicken sandwich which I could only eat about half of. After some food, I felt like a new person. I felt so much better! I later had a beer and it actually felt really great on my stomach. I think the little bit of carbonation helped to settle it.
I wore my new compression socks starting around 4 pm that day and slept with them. They feel AMAZING. My legs actually felt really good the next morning!